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Healthy Pregnancy Alternatives for Your Most Dangerous Vices

Whether you're trying to get pregnant or already are pregnant, it's likely that you've been reading up on what to do to make conception or pregnancy a success. You may have realized that some of your favorite activities and vices are not only counterproductive for conception or maintaining a healthy pregnancy, but downright dangerous for you and your fetus. If you're struggling with missing your booze, weed, cigarettes, sushi and contact sports—read on to hear my alternatives. My alternatives won't be quite the same, but you're becoming a mom, so you won't be the same either.

RELATED: 10 Foods To Avoid When Trying to Get Pregnant

The Danger: Alcohol. Even in France (where wine is treasured) they warn against the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Even while doctors warn that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, off the record, doctors have been known to permit a glass every once in a while after the first trimester. I am not a heavy drinker, but like many modern women, I really like my wine, and the first six weeks of not being able to drink were difficult for me. I really wanted a drink and hated everyone who was having drinks around me. It being the holiday season made it that much more difficult.

The Alternative(s): MADD Wine. Some people find it gross, but I think it tastes similar to a wine cooler. In the right glass and paired with some cheese, I could almost pretend it was wine. Almost. Mocktails at bars are also a good coping mechanism. Tell the bartender you're pregnant and to whip you up something delightful that's not too sweet. Trust in your mixologist.

Avoid friends who smoke and places where smoking is common. Accept that this as just one of many sacrifices you will need to make for your baby.

The Danger: Drugs. Everybody knows that you shouldn't do drugs if you are pregnant or are trying to conceive—it's no good for baby-making. However, with the legalization of marijuana in various states, the topic of weed and pregnancy is coming up more and more. Regardless of the legality of marijuana, the danger it poses to your baby is the same. But what if you really like it? What if it relaxes you and helps you sleep? What if it helps you cope with your anxiety and/or depression?

The Alternative(s): Try talking with a professional therapist if you are using marijuana or any drug to self-medicate, and are aware that you are doing so. They will offer you other techniques for relaxation and possibly prescription drugs that won't harm your fetus. Other at-home remedies for relaxing I recommend are yoga, breathing exercises and warm bubble baths with a trashy novel. A prenatal massage can also really hit the spot. But my favorite method of zoning out like a stoner is binge-watching shows on Netflix. Depending on the show, it can slow your brain activity to relaxing state, or release serotonin from laughing at all those old episodes of "Friends." Going to the movies is also an excellent way of escaping reality. And if you're really wanting to take a trip, take a nap instead. Pregnancy dreams are a "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" situation.

The Danger: Cigarettes. I can't say I have a lot of sympathy for pregnant smokers, despite having been a smoker several years ago. The risks to your baby are significant; the nicotine, carbon monoxide, and numerous other poisons you inhale from a cigarette are carried through your bloodstream and go directly to your baby. Smoking lowers the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby. It increases the following:

  • Your baby's heart rate
  • The chances of miscarriage and stillbirth
  • The risk that your baby is born prematurely and/or born with low birth weight
  • Your baby's risk of developing respiratory problems
  • The risks of birth defects
  • The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

It also has the effect of shortening your own life span. Keep yourself healthy so you can live to see the significant events in your child's life.

The Alternative(s): Quit. Get professional help before you get pregnant. If you become pregnant and are still struggling to quit, see your doctor. Try mints, gum and exercise. Changing patterns in your life (i.e., no coffee or drinks that may trigger the desire to smoke) will help as well. Avoid friends who smoke and places where smoking is common. Accept that this is just one of many sacrifices you will need to make for your baby.

Put your ultrasound pictures in prominent places in your home to remind yourself exactly why you're making sacrifices—it's all for the baby.

The Danger: Delicious foods that are verboten. Sushi, deli meats, smoked salmon, caviar, raw oysters, rare steaks, runny eggs, fresh non-pasteurized milks and juices, sprouts, high-mercury fish, and caffeine are all cause for concern. (Writing this has of course made me crave them all. Sigh.) Foodborne illness is no joke (says this writer, who nearly died from it in Guatemala) so I'm not having any of it and neither should you. Pregnant women are highly susceptible to foodborne illnesses and it can cross the placenta and harm your baby. So get that finger out of the cookie dough and look forward to eating all these possibly diarrhea-inducing treats after the baby is born.

The Alternative(s): You can still eat non-raw items at your favorite sushi joint. It may not be as satisfying, but the combination of the rice, salt and fresh, buttery avocados may ease the pain. Steam some deli meat, buy pasteurized caviar, and make a panini. Hard-boiled eggs are safe as well. There are days when I would murder for a slice of lox on a bagel, but then I remember Guatemala and I certainly don't want to subject my little developing one to that kind of illness. There are plenty of treats that are both tasty and safe to eat when you're pregnant. Try to focus on what you can eat.

The Danger: Risky physical activities. Sure, you like to blow off steam with your local hockey league, but the risk of falling and hurting yourself or the baby makes contacts sports off limits while pregnant. Other high risk activities include: amusement park rides, cycling after the first trimester, downhill skiing, gymnastics, horseback riding, scuba diving, snowboarding, surfing and waterskiing.

The Alternative(s): There are plenty of safe and healthy physical activities for pregnant women, especially if you were active before you got pregnant. Always talk to your physician, but generally speaking you should be able to continue your pre-pregnancy fitness regime (barring contact sports). Walking, swimming, yoga, light weight lifting and low impact aerobics are wonderful ways to relieve stress and stay healthy during your pregnancy. Pro scientific tip: Watch the sports channel—your mirror neurons will get to firing away and you will feel like it's you playing that game. Plus, you can scream at the TV all you want without risk of injury to your abdomen. Go sports!

RELATED: 10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Some people downplay how difficult taking care of your unborn child can be. But making all these changes can be a struggle, especially if you are going through major stress while pregnant and your old standbys for coping are not available to you. Reach out for support from your friends and family and if they annoy you too much (another side effect of pregnancy—people can really pluck your last nerve), consider therapy or joining an expectant mothers group. Put your ultrasound pictures in prominent places in your home to remind yourself exactly why you're making sacrifices—it's all for the baby and it will be totally worth it when that healthy little sucker pops out.

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